Happy New Year. Are you like me and digging out after taking some time off during the holidays?

My wife and I flew to Florida to spend a few days with her family. Too much sitting and eating, but we won’t go there. The flights gave me an opportunity to catch up on my TED Talks queue, though. So for your New Years’ pleasure and consideration as you plot your new year–some thoughts. Maybe something will give you an idea to totally redirect your year into a better direction.

To lead off, here is a talk given by a Penn State communications professor who was told to help engineering students explain technical topics. Her conclusion, use story and analogy. That has been the foundation idea behind the editorial focus of Automation World. Melissa Marshall, Talk Nerdy To Me.

Speaking of education, there are many cool ideas floating around for using the Internet for learning. Here, Shimon Schocken explains the Self-Organizing Computer Course. I sense a revolution happening–and it all sounds good to a self-learner like me.

Or, there are some beautiful photos of our nano world from Gary Greenberg.

Applying Engineering To Solve Social Problems

When he realized his wife had to choose between buying family meals and buying her monthly “supplies”, this entrepreneur invented a simple machine to help poor women make their own sanitary napkins. Arunachalam Muruganatham, How I Started a Sanitary Napkin Revolution.

How do you build a wheelchair ready to blaze through mud and sand, all for under $200? Amos Winter, describes the process of designing and building the cheap all-terrain wheelchair.

If you had to walk a mile for a jug of water every day, as millions of people do, it’s unlikely you’d use that precious water to bathe. Young entrepreneur Ludwick Marishane tells the amazing, funny story of how he invented a cheap, clean and convenient solution: DryBath, the world’s first bath-substituting lotion.

And a Warning About “Studies”

Brains are ubiquitous in modern marketing: Headlines proclaim cheese sandwiches help with decision-making, while a “neuro” drink claims to reduce stress. There’s just one problem, says neuroscientist Molly Crockett: The benefits of these “neuro-enhancements” are not proven scientifically. In this to-the-point talk, Crockett explains the limits of interpreting neuroscientific data, and why we should all be aware of them. Molly Crockett, Beware Neuro-Bunk.

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